Monday, November 30, 2015

Interventions: A Necessity for Standards Based Grading

First of all, Tiny Town High is not a Block Schedule School. We have never been on Block Schedule.

Every day, we have seven 47 minute class periods and a 40 minute eighth "advisory" period. This advisory period means that most teachers have somewhere between 13 and 16 students, freshman through senior, for the last period of the day. Block schedule schools might call this their seminar period.

One day a week, advisory is used for club and activity meetings. For the other four days of the week, advisory consists of 20 minutes of silent sustained reading and 20 minutes of study time if needed. (Otherwise, they read for 40 minutes.) Because students are from different grades, the older students will sometimes help the younger students in classes they are struggling with. Truthfully, most of my students read the entire 40 minutes each day. I'd like to think it is because the book they are reading is so exciting that they can't put it down. Chances are pretty good that they are just avoiding homework.

And that brings us to the CHS interventions for struggling students.

If students are compliant (trying) and struggling:
1. A teacher can contact an advisory teacher and ask them to remind the students to use study time to finish an assignment or see if a classmate can help them.
2. The teacher can assign the student to our HUB tutoring room. Students would then report to the tutoring room for the entire 40 minutes of advisory on the day assigned. They would receive help from a teacher, para, or NHS student who is assigned to work in HUB. These three teachers (Math, English, Science) do not have an advisory and run the tutoring room four days a week. All Tiny Town High teachers share a google document where we assign students and then check on their progress. (Students receive a Hub pass/reminder in their 7th hour class, delivered by an aide.)
3. Contacting the parent is always encouraged to let them know that their student is struggling so that they are informed and can help, too.

If a students is noncompliant (not trying):
1. Teachers are to contact the parent. Again, everyone is working together to help the student achieve.
2. The teacher can again contact the advisory teacher and have them require the student to work on assignments during the last 20 minutes of advisory. Nagging An additional reminder sometimes works.
3. Finally, the teacher can assign the student to an academic lunch. Students take their lunch tray to the office where they eat lunch while an administrator oversees the completion of the work. (Fun for all involved!)

Our tutoring center is a great place for a student in need of re-teaching and re-testing on formatives; however, when the majority of the class needs further work, I do the re-teaching in my room during regular class time.

These interventions are incredibly important. I remember the days of Mastery Learning. We created Form A and Form B tests. If students didn't master on Form A, we re-taught those students and then gave them a Form B. If the students mastered on the Form A, the teacher had to create "enrichment" work for them to complete while their classmates were still working. It was a great idea in theory; however, I never felt confident in my "enrichment" assignments. Frequently, I felt there was quite a bit of wasted time.

Tiny Town High's interventions allow students to receive extra help without disrupting the flow of the rest of the class. Some students ask to be put in the tutoring center, knowing they need more time.

I'm not sure Standards Based Grading would be happening at Tiny Town High without these interventions in place.

One last benefit for teachers:  our PLC's now meet one day every week during advisory time. We have a Buddy Teacher who takes our advisory students on our meeting day, and we take their advisory students on their meeting day. Those 40 minutes are a valuable part of our curriculum planning and department work.

I feel fortunate to teach in a school that has made it possible for teachers and students to succeed. Tiny Town High has gone above and beyond to insure success for each of us.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The First Four Concerns About Standards Based Grading

These are the concerns I hear from teachers looking into making the switch to Standards Based Grading:

Standards Based Grading waters down the grades.
    Tell that to my students. Standards Based Grading means fewer students are failing (most can show limited knowledge of a standard), but fewer students are making A's. A student has to work to master almost every single standard.  There is no extra credit to cover for when they have done "B" work. An "A" student is truly an "A" student. There is no grade inflation.

Students should be graded on formatives or practice.
    Some departments do give grades on formatives. (Our math department does.) In English, we don't give grades for formatives. Formatives are just practice. If a student doesn't do well, they can be re-taught and then try again. Re-teaching can be done on an individual basis or for a whole class if they need it. Our school has a tutoring center that students can be assigned to during the school day. (By the way, interventions for re-teaching are absolutely crucial for Standards Based Grading to work.)

Students won't try on formatives if the formatives don't affect their grades.
     I have had no problem with students not trying. Sometimes they will ask me if the quiz or assignment is a formative or a summative. Usually, when I tell them it is a formative, relief is evident on many faces. They jump in and give it a try. They aren't afraid to take a chance and see how they do. Even my students who are going for top grades are relieved because they know that if they don't do as well as they would like, the practice or formative won't hurt their grades.

The material being covered is different from what we used to teach.
    I teach the same material that I have taught for the 37 years before Standards Based Grading. I still teach every unit that I love. We have always taught the standards; we just weren't as focused on each individual standard like we are today.
    I used to teach a unit (covering many standards) and if a student scored poorly on a unit test, I just went on and hoped that they would catch on by the time we finished the next unit. (I would not have been able to tell you what standard the student was having trouble mastering. I would just have a whole unit test score.)
    Now, my units might cover 4-8 standards. If a student scores poorly on a standard, I re-teach or send them to our tutoring center. They have a chance to practice on formatives without fear that practicing will affect their grade. Two formatives for every standard means that by the time they take the summative test, there is a better chance that they can master the standard. (The two formatives and one summative for each standard are usually evaluated during one unit.) Because each standard goes into the grade book individually, parents, students and I all know which standard is mastered and which needs more work.

These are the first four concerns that we usually hear when teachers are thinking of switching to Standards Based Grading.

In the next post, I will share the interventions that our school has in place for re-teaching.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Standards Based Grading 2015-2016

We are now using Standards Based Grading in both Sophomore and Junior English classes. Since there are three teachers using it, there is input, help, and time to strategize in our PLC.

This is our new information sheet for parents and students.
It is very similar to the first one. We just re-arranged some items so it is easier to understand.

I have also been experimenting with ways to track my student data. I started this semester with notebooks where I kept notes on individual students. I still use my paper grade book, as well as the electronic grade book. This nine weeks I am trying to use the comments in my electronic grade book more. The notebooks are where I keep artifacts and details, like the grade sheets on papers or notes about concerns. Every student has their own page. My memory isn't as good as it used to be, so it helps to have some notes.

We have all discovered that Google Classroom is helpful for Quick Writes, Exit Tickets, Formatives, and even submitting essays. Socrative is also helpful for quick feedback on skills.

What have we learned?
1. Never evaluate too many standards on one test or essay. Five is now my maximum; otherwise, it gives me a major headache!
2. Our students have a more difficult time making the coveted "A" grade, but it is also harder for them to fail. (Most can demonstrate at least some understanding of a standard.)
3. Having interventions in place to re-teach is paramount. After a poor formative, individual students need tutoring time. Our school has put several interventions in place for this additional work, including a schedule that supports time for students in a tutoring center run by several teachers, paras, and National Honor Society students.

There are some things that haven't changed much. My grade book looks very similar to what it looked like a year ago when I started Standards Based Grading.

For final exams this year, the English teachers are thinking about having students pick the standard/standards that they most need to improve. They would develop a project that shows their mastery of the standard. I am in the process of developing some guidelines and ideas for those projects. Until I do that, I have a hard time envisioning the final product. My goal is to have the bulk of the work done on this before Thanksgiving.

And that gives you an idea of where we are on Standards Based Grading today.